The Mars Volta | 12.31.07 | SF

Words by: James Noyes

The Mars Volta :: 12.31.07 :: Bill Graham Civic Auditorium :: San Francisco, CA

The Mars Volta :: 12.31.07 by Juliette Rapala
"Join us in bringing in the New Year with a night of ocular penetration," read the program, and the night delivered on that strange promise. With the help of The Eternals and Peanut Butter Wolf, The Mars Volta threw the biggest party of their career. Playing both an acoustic and a full electric set, they displayed a new type of energy onstage, a far cry from their old routine of two hour shows with no opener, zero stage banter and seeming obliviousness to the audience's presence.

The acoustic set was a first for the band, and a truly special experience to witness. Vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala really stood out in this context with some of the strongest, most impressive singing to date. The set featured two first-ever performances: the haunting "Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" and a new piece that apparently isn't even on their upcoming The Bedlam in Goliath (set for release on January 29 through UMVD). It will be interesting to follow the future of this song, which is easily their most accessible since "The Widow." If it ever gets a studio release they could have a huge radio hit on their hands.

The audience didn't want to party nearly as much as The Eternals, who fused together hip-hop, spoken word, dub and funky drum-and-bass jams, but Peanut Butter Wolf brought everyone back. His set was a series of music videos that he spun like records, creating bridges between hip-hop, metal and bluegrass in a truly original musical experience.

Rodriguez-Lopez :: The Mars Volta :: 12.30.07
The full electric Mars Volta set marked a dramatic shift from the band's general attack. Favoring variety over monster jams, they tore relentlessly through 15 songs in an exhausting two and half hour set. Their formerly serious onstage persona was also scrapped when the band came out masked, chatty and ready to party. Though the masks were gone by the end of the first song, the festive atmosphere remained and the band was a blast to watch.

The eight songs played from the upcoming Bedlam in Goliath reinforced what fans have suspected for months: the album is going to be a powerhouse. All of the new material was well-received, although the band played best during the tight, hard-grooving "Ouroboros" and the album opener "Aberinkula." The latter had a shockingly powerful ending, and stood out as the strongest new piece of the night.

The band was as strong as it's ever been. Having eight members onstage is more than a little chaotic, but there is more of a method to the madness than before. Back-up guitarist Paul Hinojos has finally been turned up so that you can actually hear his riffs under Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's wild guitar solos. Saxophonist-flautist Adrian Terrazas elevated his instruments beyond frantic soloing, adding new textures to every song. I heard some complaints about the show being too loud or the mix being too muddy, but from my spot in front of the soundboard everything came through clearly, if loudly, except sadly Ikey Owens' keyboards.

Bixler-Zavala :: The Mars Volta :: 12.30.07
Much of the band's newfound energy came from new drummer Thomas Pridgen, the 24 year old prodigy who joined in March. He may actually be a robot from the future, as I don't know if humans can pummel the drums that hard and fast for two and half straight hours and survive. Fans debate endlessly over whether he or previous full-time drummer Jon Theodore is a better fit for the band, but for my money Pridgen brings a wholly new, exciting sound to the band. For the entire concert his power and ability held me transfixed.

Outside of the new material, they focused mostly on the big songs from Amputechture, with an absolutely explosive "Tetragrammaton." In a great touch, the bookends of the set were their two oldest and biggest live staples. "Roulette Dares" was as energetic an opener as its ever been, and as its ending jam faded into electronica, Bixler-Zavala began the countdown. With a shower of balloons, high-fives and hugs, the band, friends and fans ushered in 2008. A massive "Drunkship of Lanterns" finished the night with an original improvised hard rock midsection and machine gun finale.

Departing the stage at 2:15 a.m., there was no encore, their standard policy for almost five years. Nobody complained after almost seven hours on our feet. Many, myself included, had barely enough energy to applaud. I left immediately, exhausted but satisfied, sacrificing the final DJ set for desperately needed sleep. In my dreams danced visions of 2008 and the new Volta epoch.

The Mars Volta :: 12.30.07 :: From

12.31.07 :: Bill Graham Civic Auditorium :: San Francisco, CA

Acoustic Set:
Intro, Televators, Cedric talks about a toy guitar given to Omar by an audience member, The Widow, Cedric talks, Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore, Cedric talks, Asilos Magdalena, Cedric talks, Vermicide, Cedric Talks, New Song

Electric Set:
Intro, Roulette Dares, New Year's Countdown and Mini-jam, Viscera Eyes, Wax Simulacra, Goliath, Conjugal Burns, Tetragrammaton, Agadez, Metatron, Cygnus Intro, Cygnus, Ourobouros, Ilyena, Meccamputechture, Aberinkula, Day of the Baphomets, Drunkship of Lanterns

-First ever acoustic set -Debut of acoustic versions of Televators, Asilos, Vermicide, Miranda, and a new song
-First live performances of Miranda, as well as a new song

Thanks to for set list.

The Mars Volta tour dates available here.

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gmoo Wed 1/9/2008 01:26PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Nice review. I'm glad they got their mix right. I saw them play a certain show at the Palace of Auburn Hills a few years back and the band's mix was less than stellar. Nice review. This band is deep deep deep...

vida421 starstarstarstarstar Wed 1/9/2008 02:06PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Thank you for a killer review...I wanted to be there so bad. Will be in NYC though. Haven't seen them without Jon, and this review puts me at ease, and stokes my fire at the same time.

Chaloupka starstarstarstarstar Wed 1/9/2008 04:01PM
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Nice review! I really wanted to hit their up-coming Boulder show, but I heard its sold-out . . .

thewormisgod starstar Wed 1/9/2008 04:58PM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

one of the most dissapointing shows of the year for me, not a great way to ring in the New Year. the sound WAS horrible, from both the font middle and the seats. "Prodigy" drummer did nothing for me, bring back Jon. I thought it was going to be a highlight of my life show when they opened w/ Roullete Dares, but then it went into Amputechture and The Bedlam in Goliath, which bored the ever living shit out of me. That being said, the worst part about this show was the sound, w/ drums turned up way way way too high, and everything was 23409 decibles louder than it should have been. Bummed i left before Drunkship of Lanterns, though.

knibbs Wed 1/9/2008 07:12PM
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I cannot wait to see this band again the new drummer sounds like a robot I'll have to check them out live to confirm though. People they invented earplugs because of this band (i think), or at least it's because of this band that I now wear the plugs at almost all live music events. Say what you will but I don't want to go deaf rocking out in front of the speakers. Viva Mars Volta!

z man starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/10/2008 04:54AM
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Nice, been waiting for this review. I saw them at the palace as well a few years ago and wasnt nearly disapointed.

maze920 Thu 1/10/2008 06:29AM
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do these guys allow tapers?

j-bizzle Thu 1/10/2008 09:08AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Every show I have ever seen at the Bill Graham has had horrible sound, and I mean horrible. They really need to check the house PA's, monitors, whatever, but get this shit figured out. Too many good bands play there for their shows to be such a dissapointment because of the sound.

whodoyoudo Thu 1/10/2008 09:21AM
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i heard scamp might try to get them with thier new 2nd headliner stage

weeeeee'lllll seeeeeee

grtrthnone starstarstarstar Thu 1/10/2008 09:58AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


yes they allow tapers and the show is up on (i think thats where i got it)

gmoo Thu 1/10/2008 12:53PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Yeah I wasn't disappointed w/ the set at the palace, just the sound quality. I blame the palace, not MV.

Grupp starstarstarstar Fri 1/11/2008 02:03PM
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Great review -the venue is pretty cavernous... i was dying to be there (although not disappointed with my choice of GOGOL BORDELLO), but am seeing Mars Volta tonight at Toad's in New Haven - with a capacity of 700, I expect to be needing those earplugs! Can't wait.

deftone984 Fri 1/11/2008 07:18PM
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i just saw their show two nights ago in burlington, vt. loud and awesome. the set they played was identical to the electric set above (not to ruin any it for anyone catching any of the other dates). the thing that impressed me the most was how playful and open they were with each other on stage. omar and thomas kept cuing each other and vibing together on transitions, smiling and seeming to really be enjoying themselves. although there were many songs i would have loved to hear, i thought the setlist was rocking and they kept me interested the entire two and a half hours (adding brilliantly placed soloing and jamming at points, but keeping the integrity of the songs). thewormisgod, i can see where you are coming from with wanting jon back. i dont necessarily feel like thomas has found his perfect fit yet. but with his incredible imagination and talent i know it will just take time. thats all i got. tmv is the shit.

QuantumTuba starstarstarstarstar Sat 1/12/2008 08:12AM
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I would have loved to be there, this band is brilliant. I would love to see them play some Minnesota or Wakarusa dates!

z man starstarstarstarstar Tue 1/15/2008 08:23AM
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Hey thanks for the little review deftone984. Sounds like a rockin intimate show. Id like to catch them in Columbus 1/19 which is a saturday. Ticket bitch is sold out now all the crooks have the tickets and want a bill. I should not complain about prices but shit. Once again thanks

LukesWall2 Sat 2/23/2008 08:47AM
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